Cantillon: So Cerberus took Wallace case first . . .

Of the €20bn property debt Cerberus has bought in Ireland, fund targeted TD first

It is significant that, of the €20 billion worth of property debt it has bought throughout Ireland in recent years, US fund Cerberus chose to take the first High Court case in relation to any of it against independent TD Mick Wallace, in the judgment it won on Friday.

Mr Wallace gave Ulster Bank a €2 million personal guarantee against a loan to his company M&J Wallace, that was secured against his Italian Quarter development on Ormond Quay in Dublin. The debt ultimately ended up in the hands of Cerberus subsidiary Promontoria Aran, after the bank sold it to the US fund along with many others in late 2014.

You can argue that those are the breaks. His business owed the money, he guaranteed it and the company to which it was due pursued it. However, it is also the case that in the Dáil, Wallace has consistently questioned Cerberus’s activities here and highlighted its controversial purchase of the Project Eagle loans from Nama, a deal that is the subject of a number of investigations, although the US fund denies any wrongdoing.

There may be no link between its decision to pursue Wallace and his statements in the house, but it is fair to say that Cerberus is no fan of either publicity that it cannot control itself, or any kind of accountability.

It did not appear before the Northern Ireland Assembly committee that is investigating Project Eagle, although it did write to it. Questions about its activities and the way it has structured its tax affairs here yield only bland claims about its benefits to the economy and job creation.

We don’t know if those claims would stand much scrutiny, but one thing we do know is that it does not benefit the exchequer in any meaningful way.

Despite using the Republic to house billions of assets bought by its Irish and European operations, it largely avoids tax through structures involving Irish and Dutch subsidiaries.

Had the court heard it, Wallace’s defence would have shed extra light on the interaction between those subsidiaries, giving the case an extra significance for the public as well as Cerberus and the Independent TD.